Padma Subramanyam, the renowned danseuse who has over the years evolved as more or less an icon of classical South Indian dance world is presently on the path to realise her immense regards for Sage Bharatha, the creator of Natyashasthra. She is accomplishing the poetic expression of her gratitude and respect for the legendary figure through a divine dance memorial being erected at Pattipulam, a village situated 36 km on the East Coast Road off Chennai city.
The monument is named as Bharathamuni Memorial and Bharatha Museum of Asian Performing Arts. Tracing the monument’s origin Padma said that once when she was invited to the Royal Thai Opera’s pooja room she had seen there as being worshipped masks of four deities – Maheshwara, Mahavishnu, Brahma and Bharathamuni and she felt ashamed that back in India they had forgotten all those years the creator of Natyashasthra, the fifth Veda; hence the memorial.
According to Padma, Bharathamuni Memorial and Bharatha Museum of Asian Performing Arts would make up for that shortcoming, not just as a memorial to the brilliant sage that had realised a comprehensive manual for performing arts but for Ilango Adikal as well, an erstwhile Jain priest of the Sangham era who had written the famous Chilapathikaram. A body named Bharathamuni Ilango Foundation for Asian Culture has also been established viewing this purpose.
The seeds for the concept was as a matter of fact sown by Kanchi Seer Shri Chandrashekhara Saraswathi through his words that since West was all about materialism and East about spiritualism, fostering close links with Asia was significant. Padma said that the Utthara Chidambaram feat of the Seer in Maharashtra’s Sathara had sown the seeds for the movement spearheaded by her.
The temple is being erected on five acres of land leased from the Tamil Nadu government using funds donated by various philanthropic institutions and individuals. One of the highlights of the temple said an excited Padma, were Lord Siva’s and Parvathi’s 108 black granite karana figures, arranged in the order of the Natyashasthra’s fourth chapter.
Three months were taken for finishing one karana since even a hairline crack was enough to have the slab rejected and work started all over again. Bharathamuni’s half a tonne main statue of the temple appears with four hands. This bust has been sculpted by Karanataka based sculptor, sthapathi Rajashekhar. Holding a veen in its right hand, the statue’s left hand holds a damaru as the right and left lower hands hold hamsa (swan) depicting wisdom and the intellect of Natyashasthra.
There is an open space facility for dance performances and other gatherings. The picture is complemented by an Ilango auditorium and Abhinavaguptha seminar room. Another highlight is a gift to the museum by MK Saroja – ‘100 Years of Indian Classical Dance’. It is understood that Padma’s dream is all about immortalising dancers who have contributed to the art form quite like the erstwhile Chola King Raja Raja who had etched in stone the images of four hundred dancers. However, the project has not concluded since shortage of funds.